Letters to Holly

Wednesday, November 5

Well Holy Shit

I come from a family where racism is a cultural habit. I never saw it displayed as hate, but I heard the constant jokes. I heard the long stories that ended with some black man being stupid. I grew up with this. Most of those people are gone now, and I had formed my own opinion about those comments when I was pretty young. I remember my dad telling me in fifth grade that he was most surprised by my ability to have black friends. Given that I was surrounded by institutionalized racism, he couldn't figure out how I had escaped it. Here's the trick: When you grow up as a frail, sickly kid with noticeably wonky eyes and teeth, you think before you call names.

Anyway, as I watched ABC's Charlie Gibson literally count down the seconds to 11 p.m, when the west-coats polls closed, and heard him say a few moments later that the network was officially calling the race for Obama -- when I flipped the channels to see Spelman College erupt in joy on MSNBC, Chicago's Grant Park turn into Woodstock, New York City's Time Square behave like it was New Year's -- I had to admit that I never thought this day would happen so early in my life. We have a black president, and he earned the office with a goddamn walloping of the previous national polticial map.

The black correspondents for the news networks, to a man, all said the same thing: my family would never believe it. Even FOX News's Sheperd Smith was caught up in the seismic shift. And then our state did it's level best to turn bright blue. The first female governor, Dole booted, a full Democrat contingent on the Bumcombe county council. Our county voted a straight Republican ticket for county commissioners, and our top school-board vote-getter is a hairdresser, but you can't win 'em all.

But you can be prepared to roll up the sleeves when you do win, and that's what comes next. Work will ensue, and it won't be pretty.

Rehearsal Three:
We learned earlier in the day that our Marley -- the backstage reporter from the courtroom show -- was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Luekemia. His email said he would pull out of the Christmas show, but he announced at the rehearsal that he would gut it out. Good for him. He felt good after his first chemo treatment, but subsequent doses will only become more difficult. I don't know if he can stay in the show. I don't want to see him weaken to that point.

The director emailed me last week to say Monday's rehearsal was canceled. I answered that I would have my Act One lines memorized by then. I could fire them off at whim all weekend. But it's always a different story to try those lines from memory for the first time in a rehearsal. I was nervous. I also spent much of my commute listening to a Neil Gaiman audio CD in hopes of picking up his accent. After a quick soup supper (when I try out the accent on the cats), I arrived at the warehouse and chatted a bit with Marley. He's trying to stay positive, and I want to see him perform this show's full run. The script calls for Cratchit and Marley to be played for the same actor, and this was altered by the director. I don't want to play Marley at his expense; I don't want the role that way.

We learn that we will indeed perform the show on the stage at our new home because the lighting would not accommodate a floor performance. This requires us to rework the set a bit, but it will remain a group of simple furniture and props. The director hopes we can rehearse on that stage before Thanksgiving. Doc uses a copy of Christmas Carol to affirm how much of our script quotes the story. Our script, however, skips Fezziwig, Scrooge's childhood boss. We also have a new stage manager; she's a friend of the director.

My Act One lines span six pages, and I get them out pretty well. Not perfect, but good enough considering I'm a week into the role. I try out my accent, and the director shocks me by calling it delightful. Scrooge jokes that I make everyone else look bad. I'm trying to keep Cratchit nervous around Scrooge -- the witness stand is right next to his courthouse desk -- but I don't want to turn into Hugh Grant.

We run through Act One and call it a night. Everyone is eager to get home to watch the election coverage, and I'm home around 8:30.

Picture of the Day
This is a close approximation of our local radio preacher upon hearing the news.


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